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man at desk signing law

Following its unanimous passage, Westchester County Executive George Latimer signed a bill aimed at strengthening the ethics laws which govern those who serve the people of Westchester County.

This newly passed law will result in stronger ethics training and enhanced whistleblower protections for County employees and would expand the County’s Board of Ethics from five to seven members. The move continues the Latimer administration’s commitment to transparency and good government following the recent passage of stricter term limits on his own office proposed by Latimer himself.

The law will go before members of the public this November as a mandatory referendum, as is required by the County Charter.

This new law, introduced by Legislator Kitley Covill and finely tuned by the Board, is another example of the cooperative efforts between the Board of Legislators and the Office of the County Executive.

Latimer said: “Elected officials must be held to a higher standard of conduct – we have been sent here to serve the people of Westchester. This new law, coupled with the recently adopted term limits legislation, sets that higher standard. I am proud to sign it on behalf of the residents who have entrusted us with these positions.”

The Term Limits legislation already submitted and signed by Latimer reduced the existing three term limit (12 years) for County Executives enacted in 2011 in Westchester, down to two terms (eight years).

This new law sets forth a new Code of Ethics regarding use of County position for:

The new ethics law applies to all current and some former officers and employees of the County, whether paid or unpaid, including the members of any County department, agency, board or commission and the members and employees of the County Legislature and Independent Contractors of the County, and replaces Chapters 192 and 883 with this new Code, “which sets forth a clear and comprehensive code of ethics in order to ensure both the reality and the appearance of integrity in County government, and to thereby foster public confidence in County government.”

Covill, Chair of the Board's Legislation Committee and a member of the County Board of Ethics, who was the lead sponsor of the legislation, said: "I want to thank my colleagues for their diligence in reviewing this legislation. And special thanks are due to my fellow members of the Westchester County Board of Ethics, who worked for a long time to make this new ethics code a reality. This new law takes several important steps to encourage ethical behavior in government and ensures that every Westchester County employee knows what is expected and where to turn for ethics guidance. We have revised the county's annual financial disclosure form for elected officials and others, so that it’s clearer and less confusing to complete.  Across the board, this new law increases clarity, removes ambiguity, and draws brighter lines so that everyone has a clearer understanding of what is expected of Westchester's public officials and employees."

Board Chair Ben Boykin said: “Good government starts with good employees and officials committed to the well-being of the people.  We have that in Westchester County. But having clear ethics regulations and procedures takes it a step farther and makes it a matter of law. This new Ethics Code is more thorough, more transparent, and more complete than anything Westchester County has had before -- clarifying standards, making it easier for employees to comply, and enhancing the confidence of the people in their government. I'd like to thank Leg. Covill for her years of work in getting this new law drafted and passed.”